FOI Daily Dose: Connecticut lawmakers miss deadline on FOIA dispute involving Sandy Hook shooting

When Connecticut lawmakers passed a blanket ban in June preventing the release of photos or videos of homicide victims’ bodies, they deliberated secretly and worked quickly under pressure from families of victims in the December 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting.

To account for any oversights in the bill that flew through both chambers in 45 minutes, they assigned a 17-member task force to assess the “balance between victim privacy under the Freedom of Information Act and the public’s right to know,” according to CT News Junkie.

The law ruled that the task force should be appointed by July 1, convene by Aug.1 and meet at least once a month until December so it can make recommendations to the General Assembly on Jan. 1.

But Connecticut lawmakers missed the first deadline to appoint members to the task force, The Day reports.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s spokesman told CT News Junkie Monday that the administration is still reviewing candidates to fill the two spots the law asks Malloy to appoint: a representative of a crime victim advocacy group and a municipal police official. The spokesman said Malloy is expected to make his appointments soon.

The other 15 appointments are either named in the law or selected by stakeholder groups.

The law asks the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists chapter to make four appointments, and the chapter made its selections in June, the News Junkie said. They picked general manager of WLIS-AM Don DeCesare, general manager of WFSB-TV 3 Klarn DePalma, chapter president Jodie Mozdzer Gil and Connecticut Post Metro Editor Brian Koonz.

The chapter has been skeptical of the hurried legislation since a May 22 article by The Hartford Courant revealed the governor’s office was working secretly with legislative leaders and the state’s top prosecutor to deny access to Sandy Hook shooting documents.

SPJ national president Sonny Albarado and Connecticut chapter president Jodie Mozdzer Gil wrote a letter to Gov. Malloy on May 23 questioning lawmakers’ secret deliberation and their decision to restrict access to public records and photos.

Albarado and Gil wrote: “The Society condemns the creation of this legislation outside the normal, transparent process of public hearings and debate. And we deplore the attempt to use the tragic events of Dec. 14 as an excuse to close off access to records that are otherwise available to the public.”

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at khackett@spj.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

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